Washer beware

So back when I first started this blog I made a post about washing a certain silk vintage juban.  The process did not go horribly but it did not go particularly well either.  Since that post I have gotten a more practical cotton juban that takes to machine washing just fine.  I have also gained more experience in washing these types of items and feel the need to share.  As a note these are by no means hardcore ‘rules’ to washing your kimono items.  In fact there are a lot of different opinions about this out there so I suggest looking around and trying to figure out what is appropriate for your specific garment.

Today however I had another washing snafu and I felt that the, washing kimono related items post needed an update.  I have since deleted the older post but I will reiterate some of the info here.

On Hand Washing:

This is the above mentioned silk juban that was in the previous post.  Here is what it looked like after hand washing it in my tub with some very mild soap and cool water.  It was extremely heavy while wet and took about 24 hours to air dry fully.  While ironing it I noticed the silk had taken on a strange ‘puffy’ texture and it had shrunk quite a bit.  For reference this juban does not have a lining.

So here is my thought on hand washing:  while I used water straight from the tap I would recommend using distilled water instead.  I think part of the reason for the texture change was because of the minerals in the tap water.  Also if you can find a soap specific for delicates/silk, whatever material you are washing that might help some too.  Overall hand washing is gentler than machine so if you have something delicate and it really needs it you could try this method.  Just beware that the piece may not come out exactly how you want depending on the material and dyeing techniques used.

On Machine Washing:

If you are going to machine wash any of your kimono items I highly recommend one of these.

This is a mesh bag used for washing dedicates in your machine.  It’s nice because it keeps things contained and will prevent those long kimono sleeves from getting caught and ripped off.

I also recommend washing on the delicate setting if your machine has one.  I don’t have this feature so I just set mine for the lowest amount of time.

I find that items made out of cotton and synthetics usually do fairly well in the machine.  That little oops I talked about earlier was one that didn’t work out however.  I had washed a ‘synthetic’ ro juban and dried it in the machine and it shrunk pretty bad.  There is always the option of machine washing and then line drying too though.

In short  if your kimono item is something that you’d be devastated should something happen to it then it is probably better to just leave the piece as is.

Some newer kimono items now come with washing instructions on a small tag.  Even though the tags are in Japanese it is pretty much safe to assume these items are indeed washable.

Something To Try:

Maybe!  I read somewhere that you can get the old musty smell out of vintage clothes by spritzing them with vanilla vodka.  Supposedly the alcohol evaporates and just leaves you with a pleasant vanilla scent.  There are certain things I would not try this on, but if something were really stinky I might give it a shot in an inconspicuous area.


So there you have it!  My opinions and experiences in washing kimono!  Please however use your own discretion.  If something is just too beautiful to replace then it may be best to leave it as is.


About reddelilah

I am an LMT by day and a Kimono and Geisha lover full time.
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4 Responses to Washer beware

  1. Sophie Vogel says:

    A little side comment; to keep your drying item from distending/stressing itself under its own water weight, you should sandwich it between two towels, and walk all over it to remove as much excess water as possible. Dries quicker and won’t be so heavy.
    Also, it helps to use a washing machine with out an agitator, greatly reducing your risk of damage.
    I feel like there is often some sort of chemical product that changes the texture of the silk that gets stripped when we wash with detergent/wash at all. When I washed a meisen piece, it came out feeling completely different. I’m of the opinion that any casual wear items HAD to be washed occasionally. Question is, what was used (specific soap, no soap at all?) Higher end items were either very very very carefully treated when need be, or just replaced (wealthy people).

    • reddelilah says:

      I know also that kimono used to be taken apart to be cleaned and were then stretched while drying to prevent shrinking. I like the towel idea! Yes it is very important to get as much water out as possible.

  2. Shae says:

    Hi there, late to reply, but thought I’d say something about odors.

    Traditionally, Kimono are set out on racks and small trays of incense are lit underneath these racks to take out bad scents. Aloeswood and Sandalwood are the most traditional. Do not use synthetic or fake incense filled with bad things, as it’ll destroy a kimono with smoke damage. Traditional Japanese incenses generally do not produce smoke, but for some faint white smoke, which is harmless to kimono.

    Sachets of aloeswood, sandalwood and cedar place in a box with a kimono will help too. I have tried sage incense over a rack on one of my cotton yukata. Definitely a NO go, because the pleasant sage scent did not stay but rather I was left with just a smoky smell. :/ Good thing it was cotton and washable!

    I’ve also used bars of Chinese Sandalwood soap for taking out cigarette odors. They work fabulous. Don’t get them wet, just stick them in dry in a box with a kimono, give’em a few months, and it should take out a great deal of the odor.

    Also, wanted to say, your Meisen Michiyuki? Did you get it from a seller in Gulf Breeze, Fl? If so, that Michiyuki previously belonged to me! I sold in and a bunch of other kimono to an ebay seller, and it looks just like that one! If it is, I’m so glad it found a good home!

    • reddelilah says:

      I honestly can’t remember which seller I bought it from but I do love it very much. It makes a good display piece for my informational talks about kimono! Luckily I have not come across the cigarette smell in any kimono I have bought yet but I’ve thought about buying some cedar sachets to store with my things. Thanks for your imput! I’m always looking for new ways to care for my items.

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